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Four tips for successful employee onboarding

By Greg Barnett, PhD

It can take a lot of time and effort to find your dream candidate, but make no mistake – once you have identified the right person and they have accepted your offer, there’s still some important work to be done. Their first few days on the job are critical and you’ll want to be sure to make a solid impression that engages them and confirms that you both made the right decision. After all, you don’t want them getting the wrong impression about how your organization operates or that they’re not important enough to get all the early support they need.

So how can you ensure you start off on the right foot with your shiny new hire? Consider incorporating these four tips into your onboarding program: 

  1. Make it personal: One of the biggest problems with early onboarding is the temptation to take a cookie cutter approach. Recruiters and hiring managers have read resumes, run interviews, and likely have assessment data on their new hires. They’ve gotten to know these new hires really well. But then once they are hired, some companies leave all pre-hire information behind and take their new recruits through a depersonalized onboarding routine.

Before they even start orienting the new staff, HR pros, and managers should sit down and have a personal calibration session and consider the following:

  • What is unique about this person?
  • What do we know about this person?
  • What motivates this person?

 This information can then be transformed into the right onboarding experience for each new hire. For example, if someone is generally introverted, thrusting them into team lunches and meetings on their first day may not be the best idea. Instead, let them build familiarity with their co-workers on a one-to-one basis. If someone isn’t a fan of process and rules, don’t make them spend their first days studying the company handbook.

  1. Set the whole table: One of the quickest ways to disengage a new hire is to not have things in order when they arrive. As an HR pro or a manager, your goal should be to have them feel like they are immediately important and valuable from the moment they arrive. If they show up and their computer isn’t there, or the software isn’t installed, or you don’t know where they are going to sit, you’ve opened the door for angst and doubt to creep in and take hold of your new hire.

The table should be set socially as well. Team members – and especially managers and leaders – should be well aware not only that there is a new person coming on board, but also who that person is, and what they will be doing. This way, when this new person arrives, they can walk around and have positive “So glad you’re here!” conversations with staff as opposed to awkward “Who the heck are you?” ones.

  1. Use a buddy system: Being a new employee can be a daunting experience. That walk into the office can feel like entering a foreign country where you don’t know where you are going, the language people are speaking, or the norms of the society. There are strangers everywhere and there is a job you have to figure out, not to mention the hidden mysteries about how things actually get done within the organization. One way managers can help to make it all a little easier is to employ a buddy system where someone is responsible for being the tour guide and the social director for the first couple of weeks. They are there to help introduce the new person to others, to make sure their lunch breaks aren’t spent in solitude, and help the new employee understand who people are and how things get done. 
  2. Find early success: When employees are new there can often be a big lag time between their first day on the job and when they start to feel like they are being successful. Many of the first months are about learning, trial, and error. One of the fastest ways to help people get engaged in their new roles is to help them feel successful right away. Obviously, in the first week, they probably aren’t going to develop that new innovative program or close that massive deal, but there are ways to get them involved and get some positive reinforcement. Consider inviting them to meetings and brainstorm sessions and give them a chance to provide their input. Allow them to look over documents and make edits or review a presentation and give perspective. Thanking them for their input will provide some positive reinforcement early on in their tenure, and will go a long way towards easing them in for the long haul.    

Hiring a new employee requires a big investment, but by incorporating these steps into your onboarding process, you’ll be rewarded with a great new hire who is engaged and highly productive in his or her new role. 

Now that you’ve hired them, learn how to keep them with our blog post, Taming Your Turnover Rate: Learning the Art of Accommodation.

Greg is the SVP of science at PI.

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